Congratulations, you’ve got yourself a new car! If it’s your first time owning a car, you may be a little fuzzy on the details of proper car maintenance. In fact, maybe you’ve owned several cars and are still not practising proper car maintenance. (Which might be why you’ve had to own so many cars?)
Whatever your circumstance, you need to get into the habit of keeping your car in check regularly. When problems sneak up on you, the costs can be huge. There can also be risks to your safety. Here are some tips for those vehicle checks.
The first thing you may ask is whether or not you should be doing this yourself. Well, yes and no. There are, of course, obligatory roadworthiness tests you have to take once per year. Those will be the MOT (Ministry of Transport) tests, which are carried out by government-approved officials. But an annual check of your car’s performance and safety isn’t really enough. There are a lot of small things you need to be checking regularly. Regular professional checks can be pretty expensive, though. Make sure you’re clued in about the stuff you need to be on the lookout for.
One of the easier checks to make is that of your tyre pressure. A lot of people do this by giving their tyres a few light kicks before heading off on their drive. This can alert you to any undesired ‘softness’, a sign that your tyre is getting flat. if you’re already seeing this sign then you’ve probably been at risk of tyre danger! Tyres lose air pressure consistently over time, so it’s something you should be battling against consistently. Keep an air pump with you on your travels. If you know what air pressure your tyres need, then you can maintain this level fairly easily. The Automobile Association, which you probably just know as ”the AA”, has a bunch of resources for tyre maintenance that you’ll want to check out.
Another thing to consider is your car’s cooling system. The main substance in this system is coolant, a mixture of antifreeze and water. The levels of coolant over time will alert you to any problems with your cooling system. There’s also the cooling fan to consider, the seizing of which is the most common initial problem with these systems. If your cooling system breaks down, then your car starts to overheat. The problem here is that it’s not immediately obvious that anything has gone wrong. If the system has broken and it goes unnoticed for a while, then your car could suddenly overheat and break down on the road. Fixing the system can cost you hundreds of pounds, so don’t forget to check for rapidly changing coolant levels.
You also need to be keeping an eye on the oil. It’s not just about what type of oil you’re using, though that is extremely important. (You car manual will let you know what oil to use.) The most common danger is that the engine isn’t running on enough oil. To check this, you need to use what professionals around the world call a “dipstick”. It’ pretty self-explanatory: you dip the dipstick into the engine. Upon pulling it out, the oil level will be revealed. If your oil level is too low, fix it immediately! Driving with low oil levels can cause utter destruction to your engine.